I’ve been drinking scotch since I was in high school, and there is a lot to say about it. Today, though, I just want to talk about a couple of basics. The main thing to know about scotch is that there are single malts, and blends, and if you care about what is good and right in the world you will use them for different things:
- Blended scotch, e.g., Dewars, is for mixing cockails, such as the Rob Roy.
- Single malts should be consumed neat (straight, no ice), with just a touch of spring water mixed in.
As with French wines, there is an entire taxonomy of different kinds of single malts. If you were to stock just one in your home bar, it should be Glenlivet or Macallan. Those are the two best known brands, and they will have a familiar flavor for the scotch drinker. If you stock two brands, however, your second bottle should be an Islay (pronounced eye-la), such as Laphroig or Lagavulin. This stuff smells like one of your electrical outlets has caught fire (it’s actually from peat smoke), but some whisky drinkers acquire a taste for it and find the Highland Malts (like Macallan and Glenlivet) bland. Since you’re a novice (if you’re not, you shouldn’t care what I have to say), you don’t need to get older and more expensive bottlings – 10-12 years will do just fine.